It’s Hard to Say Goodbye

Dad collage

I don’t think we are ever prepared for the death of a loved one. It is a loss so profound, it cuts a hole in our center, our core and our heart. It leaves us unbalanced, wounded and bleeding. We mourn the ones who die before us and struggle to imagine life without them.

dad and mom

Our family has been hit with three deaths in seven months. I knew Danny’s family before I discovered the Lindau boys had an older brother. Our parents were very close friends and our families often celebrated holidays together. Danny’s brother, his mother, (one month ago), and now my father have left us.

dad mom patty and me

My Father the Madman.

You can’t prepare for it. No matter if it is a slow goodbye or a shock, the finality is something hard to comprehend until it happens. I have imagined it and nothing comes close. I thought I wouldn’t be able to function, but instead I’ve been in hyperdrive. I think I’m still in shock.

mom and dad1

The Secret to Living a Long and Happy Life

But I have found a few things that help. Gathering with family to share memories is the first step in healing. The night my dad died, I made an autumn supper for my husband and children who live in Denver. We laughed and cried over the loss of my dad. He was a great man and could be very funny.

Kelly's first christmas 001 (2)

The Nightmare Before Christmas

dad and the gang

Trippin’ Through Dublin – A Photo Essay

The other way to deal with extreme stress is to get busy. Do housework, laundry, cook, clean, any mindless task or normal activity. I washed windows when I got the news. I cried while finishing. After cleaning up, I cooked our family dinner. Exhausted and reeling, it was worth the effort.

dad in the studio 1

A Passionate Lifetime.

Writing has become a part of my daily routine, so the next morning, I wrote his obituary. I had thought I would regret not preparing it ahead of time, but discovered a healing process in recalling the high points in his life. Talking with my family to review the details gave me comfort too.

dad and Joe


Having blogged many times about my dad, I enjoyed perusing my articles for this post. I have included the links to a few of those essays. He was quite a guy.

Dad at the drawing board

The Land of Happy People and Cheese – A Photo Essay.

He had been in the nursing home since April and suffered a grand mal seizure last week. When he revived, he joked with the nurses. The doctors said it was a miracle. There have been many miracles over the years. We had compared him to the cat with nine lives even though he used about fifteen of them.

Christmas with dad

Traditions in Transition

Up and down over the last few days, my brother and mom were hopeful he would be released from the hospital on Sunday. In the afternoon, Joe asked my dad if he would like some chocolate ice cream, his favorite. Dad ate a full cup and then held my mom’s hand.

“Let’s take a walk and get out of here,” he said to her.

“No Ed. You have to stay here so you can rest up and get better,” said mom.

My dad was quiet for a moment. He took my mom’s hand again and said, “I’m alright.”

A few seconds later he said, “I’m ready,” and he passed away.

He had one exhausted guardian angel. The two of them probably shared a shot of Irish whiskey that night.


Deconstructing the Avant Guard: Ed McCartan’s Art Retrospective

Memories of my dad could fill volumes, but the Wisconsin State Journal has its limit. Here’s the full obituary I wrote for him. A shorter version will appear in the newspaper on Sunday.


Edward (Ed), George McCartan passed away with family members by his side on Sunday, October 18th after a long battle with heart disease.

Born on February 22, 1926 in the town of  Lake Five, Wisconsin near the Holy Hill area, Ed grew up taking care of the cows and chickens, and occasionally led their horse to plow the fields on the family farm. He remembered when electricity was installed.

He attended Hillside Grade School and graduated from Menomonee Falls High School in 1945. Then Ed drove his Harley Davidson into Milwaukee to the Layton School of Art where he mastered a wide variety of art techniques and sign lettering. Ed also attended the Chicago Institute of Art for one year. For fun on the weekends, he would take apart a car engine and put it back together. Ed liked to keep busy.

He served in the U.S. armed forces for seven years and was honorably discharged in 1952. He contracted rheumatic fever while serving and sustained damage to his heart.

He married the love of his life, Mary Jean May, in 1957, and they moved to Madison where they had three children: Susie, Patty, and Joe.

Becoming one of the original  “Mad Men,” Ed went to work as Art Director at Vivid, Naegele, and then Hansen Outdoor Advertising. He hand painted billboards twenty-five feet off the ground and fifty feet wide in oils and enamels sometimes working off a swing stage several stories off the ground. He created the American Family Insurance logo as well as many others in use today.  Then he launched McCartan Advertising in 1975 and produced signs, logos, brochures and a wide variety of other artwork for decades.

Ed was very active in the community and was a member of the Madison Rotary Club, Our Lady Queen of Peace Council and The Knights of Columbus. For twenty years, he hand painted banners for the Downtown Madison Parade. He chaired the event one year and was featured as a “Know Your Madisonian,” in the Wisconsin State Journal in 1984.

Mary and Ed bought a Victorian home in Evansville, Wisconsin where Ed slowly retired, but never stopped working. They worked side-by-side renovating the one-hundred-year-old home. He painted many murals on its walls and continued to sketch after moving into the Evansville Manor Nursing Home this spring.

He was a religious man and very reverent in his faith. After finding his family Bible a year ago, he rendered drawings from its photographs.

From childhood, Ed recorded his life in drawings and paintings. Many years ago Ed showed his work at the Art Fair on the Square. Being a humble man and enjoying the act of creating artwork, he never displayed his work again until Mercy Hospice hosted a retrospective of his life’s work at the Evansville Manor. Fifty paintings were displayed along with tables filled with only a sampling of sketches spanning his eighty-nine years.

Ed was quick with a smile and often had a new joke to tell. If there is one word to describe him, it would be “happy.” The world is a much better place having Ed in it. He will be dearly missed by all who knew him.

He is survived by his loving wife, Mary, of 58 years, his daughter Susie (Danny) Lindau and their children, Kelly and Courtney, daughter, Patty, son Joe, his sister, Eileen Gilgenbach, brother-in-law Ted Kieliszewski, nephew Patrick (Linda) Zielinski, and many other nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his brother, John and sister, Mary Joan (Kieliszewski).

Visitation will be held at St. Paul Catholic Church in Evansville on Tuesday, October 27 at 10:00 AM. followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 11:00 with the Knights of Columbus Honor Guard and full military honors.

The family would like to thank Mercy Hospice, Evansville Manor, and the VA Hospital for the wonderful care Ed received.

Dad and me

My Dad’s favorite poem was by Lewis Carroll from Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There – 1872. He recited it often.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

I love you Dad! We will miss you dearly.

155 thoughts on “It’s Hard to Say Goodbye

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    1. It was nice to come home to a clean house. The service was spectacular if ever there was a spectacular funeral, 21 gun salute and all. He left super large shoes to fill. Thanks so much Patricia.


  1. I’m so very sorry for your loss. Your Dad sounds like he was a heck of a great guy. Be gentle with yourself, especially with all the recent losses. I lost my Dad in early 2012, and he was like a cat with way more than 9 lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So sorry for your loss Susie and family. I am so happy that you took the time to introduce your dad to all of us over the years. Through your words I was inspired by his talent and learned that the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree. His artwork amazed me and his recent gallery debut showed me that it’s never too late to share yourself with the world.
    You just gained an angel, who will be very busy following you around on your adventures!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sorry for you loss however old they are it is still never easy. When my mum when me and my older brother didn’t get there in time but my sister younger brother and dad where there. As last words go they are very good and hope give you comfort.


    1. Thanks for stopping by, Eric. It was a remarkable passing. He finished his ice cream and passed less than a half hour later without pain. He just let go. It was beautiful.
      The pain of loss is dependent on the relationship. The more love you have for the person, the harder it is to let go.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m sorry to be so late in reading and responding to your beautiful tribute to your father. I’ve enjoyed so much hearing about him in your earlier posts. You and your family are in my heart and prayers at this sad time.

    I know that your grief is something you’ll process in many different ways as time goes on, but it’s clear from all you wrote that your sadness is beautifully well-seasoned with the love you learned from such a wonderful father.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Barb. It is a crazy ride of emotions. We are going to the inurnment in a half hour and think that has reopened the wound for my mom. It’s like another funeral. Tomorrow is Danny’s mom’s service then it’s home to celebrate birthdays.


  5. My condolences to you on the death of your beloved dad. This is such a sweet and lovely tribute. You’re right…..we’re never prepared for the death of a loved one. My dad has been gone for ten years, and my darling mom passed in September this year. I miss them both terribly.


    1. I’m so sorry for you’re loss too. I feel like it’s a rite of passage in becoming an adult and I had avoided it for a long time. The loss is dependent on the relationship, so parents are the hardest! I’m just trying to go back to work and include some play. We never know when it will be our time to go so work hard, play harder!
      Thanks so much, Another Day. 🙂


  6. Again, I’m so sorry. What a shame to lose this man, and yes the loss of a parent leaves a hole in the center. Gradually the memories fill that hole, at least that has happened for me.

    I love the obituary you wrote. It’s amazing and your dad’s life is an inspiration.



    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Nicci. It is getting a little easier. I am in Wisconsin for three services and think that has helped. I’m looking forward to going back home to celebrate birthday week.


  7. Sorry to hear this, Susie. You’re Dad sounds like an amazing man – painting massive billboards by hand, now that’s a helluva thing to have on your resume! The pain will hurt at first, but eventually the memories of loved ones passed becomes a great source of strength and happiness.


  8. Nice job Susie! I’m sorry I haven’t called. I’m a little slow since my accident. I wish I had a nickel for every time I bragged about my uncle owning the AFI logo! Longer life than Nike!


    1. I wish I knew who you were! I’m so sorry about your accident. Funny thing is, my parents never thought much about the AMFAM logo until I blogged and bragged about it! My dad doesn’t own it since he worked for an agency while creating it, but that is super cool that your uncle rendered that logo!


    2. I figured it out! It’s Skandelous G! Ha! I thought you typoed the AFL logo. You were talking about your Uncle Ed. It’s been hard, but having a lot of familiar faces at the funeral including your sisters and mom really helped.


        1. Ha! I didn’t make the connection yesterday. I caught up with sleep last night. Yay! I hope you’ve recovered.

          My parents seemed pretty oblivious to how big American Family had become. I had to explain the logo was everywhere. 🙂


  9. Thank you for this wonderful tribute. I particularly love the photo of your Dad in his studio. May the coming holidays bring your family peace and celebration, even as you remember these dear ones. Very best wishes.


  10. What a wonderful and moving tribute to your dad! He was such a special man. My condolences to you and your family
    I’m glad to hear that you’re writing through this difficult period. It can be such a catharsis.


    1. Thanks so much, Jackie. I’m back in Wisconsin for more services and miss writing. I’m looking forward to goibg back to Boulder to celebrate birthday month and Thanksgiving. I have a lot to be grateful for like blogging friends like you who have been so supportive.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Very sorry for your loss Susie. Always know that as long as you all have memories of his great life, and the legacy of the people he and his work touched, he’ll always be with you in some way. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Kevin. I agree and really believe that. He has a few unfinished paintings. I never touched them since it felt wrong. Now I think that since he gave me the gift of painting, I can finish them.
      I was back a second time for more services and thought it would be hard to be surrounded by memories of him in my parents’ house, but it was strangely comforting. It’s all a part of life.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I am so, so sorry for your loss, Susie. I hope all of your wonderful memories are a comfort to you. (Sorry to be so late with my heartfelt condolences – I have been out of town and unable to figure out how to comment on my smart phone.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Peg. It was a tough three weeks. I have finally returned to Boulder and have been thrown into the vortex that is Birthday Week. I love the contrast and irony of the timing. Back to life and work!


  13. Susie – I am sorry to read of your loss – I began following your blog after your Father’s Day post in 2011….. I am sure you will miss him, but I know you have many memories of him growing up and being with him as an adult. The way our parents are when we are kids is much different when we become adults. From your posts about him (and your mom), it reads that he grew with the role of dad. may you always remember his sense of humor and his smile. Peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will always remember that, Clay. Thank you so much. It was tough, but is getting easier after several services and meeting with friends and family. Now I am in the throes of Birthday Week! Back to celebrating LIFE!


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